Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for solo violin (original version), Sz.117, BB 124 (1944) [25:23]
44 Duos for two violins, Sz.98, BB104 (1931) [47:53]
Barnabás Kelemen (violin)
Katalin Kokas (second violin)
rec. October 2005, Phoenix Studio Hungary
BUDAPEST MUSIC CENTER BMCCD125 [72:18]
Barnabás Kelemen has garnered quite a reputation of late, not least with regard to the music of his homeland. In practice this has meant a strong repute in the chamber music of Bartók, the best-known example being his Hungaroton CD  of the two sonatas and the solo sonata; the sonatas enjoyed the superior partnership of Zoltán Kocsis. However back in 2005 he also recorded the solo sonata, adding all four books of the Duos for two violins, a release very much still in print and issued under the auspices of the Budapest Music Center. This is the disc under review.
These were studio recordings, taped over several days in October 2005, and the evidence of the single piece common to both discs, the solo sonata, is that if anything Kelemen was on even more involved and unbridled form for BMC than later for Hungaroton. His tonal armoury remains trenchant, and there’s some especially declamatory phrasing in the Ciacona and resinous passagework in the ensuing Fuga, where his playing embraces the sinewy. He’s unafraid to coarsen his tone when required for full characterful effect – he has an especially theatrical use of a kind of ‘hoarse’ tone - but he locates a powerfully aloof quality in the Melodia, which is neither precious nor over-vibrated. Buzzy self-confidence and bravado are alike elements in his engaging projection of the Presto finale.
He’s joined by Katalin Kokas for the 44 Duos and there’s a delightfully deft balance between the two young violinists. The songful folkloric elements are duly brought out – the Slovakian Song from Book I is a triumph in this respect – and richer vibratos ensure that the Play Song (No.9 of the 44) receives its full quotient of intensity. Whether evoking wedding fiddlers and projecting a teasing waltz, the Kelemen-Kokas duo remains highly impressive. So they are too in the rather anomalously spare Prelude, the first of Book IV, before its succeeding canon re-establishes a true rustic feel.
With a fine, attractively laid out multi-language booklet, and excellent studio recording, Kelemen’s early assurance in this repertoire can be enjoyed to the full.